Page images

reproach to all that are round about us. And if there be one token against us it is this, that amidst all our schemes for doing good, the ancient way of God's saints and servants, of confession, and penitence, and prayer, is most overlooked. We little think how much we are benefited, how many a good thought and holy desire we owe to the prayers and tears of those we have never seen in the flesh. People are every where busy and excited, and endeavouring to build up God's Church by human laws and societies, and to provide for perishing souls by what you term scholarship, as if the sin and neglect of ages past could be undone by what we may call “ literature.”

But no, my brethren ; if ever it shall please Almighty God to build

up His Church, and bring it to bear upon men's souls as a living system, to convert the old from the sins of their fathers, and to train the young, notwithstanding bad example, and to make each understand in his measure what it is to have a soul, and to bring him to ask himself again and again, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul, it will be not by civil establishments, nor by what is called education and teaching children to read, no, nor by mere sermons, but by the unseen confessions and prayers and tears of saints and penitents, many of whom, in all ages, have gone from us, but whose holy earnestness has come up as a memorial before God, and is working His good work amongst us still. A broken heart can often best feel for others : a soul which lives in the light of God's countenance can best enter into the souls of others, and win souls to Christ : a watchful conscience can best touch and guide the consciences of others. One single book of Confessions, in which but one single broken heart has been laid open, for the good of God's Church, as it lay open before the All-seeing God HIMSELF, has done more to kindle other hearts, and make men understand what a “soul is,” and a conscience, and what we all are, and why we are here, and what is our business here, and our prospect in eternity, than will be understood till that day when all kindreds and nations and people and tongues shall be gathered before the Throne, and manifested before men and Angels. This thought cannot but be most consoling and encouraging to any one who would cleanse his own heart in secret, and pray to his Father which seeth in secret, and have, he may think, but little means of doing good. .

[ocr errors]

When we read such an awful sentence as the text, Behold, all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine : the soul that sinneth, it shall die;" when, I say, we read and meditate upon such an overwhelming sentence, and think how many souls since Adam have so swiftly passed away from this world of trial into the unseen world, and see them passing away one by one from our side, young and old, parents and children, and all who remain amongst us so strangely and mysteriously bound together, and influencing one another for good or for evil to all eternity ;-no wonder men should endeavour, half-scared, to make great plans, to contemplate doing much, and on a great scale; hoping thus to work upon a mass. Yet, let each bring home this truth ; who shall say how much may be done by God's blessing by one broken heart, by converting one sinner from the errror of his way, by making one hearty penitent, by watching and training one little child's conscience to live as in God's presence, by making one soul understand what it may be to live for ever or die for ever, to bear its own burden before the judgment-seat of Christ?

How much more should we be doing for you and your children, than clothing them and teaching them to read, if we could lay to heart ourselves, and bring you to understand what our office is as “watching for souls," as having what is called cure of souls !”

How much might each in his sphere do towards turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of all to the great God and Father of all, if we could by His mercy persuade but one to think and speak and act amongst others as an immortal soul, always as unto God; to train his heart and conscience to say inwardly, and feel inwardly, and digest inwardly, the words of the holy Psalmist, in which more than in any other perhaps this deep truth is contained, and which he will do well to meditate upon day and night, as the voice of a soul crying out of the deep to the Father of the spirits of all flesh:

·O LORD, Thou hast searched me out, and known me: Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; Thou understandest my thoughts long before.

Thou art about my path, and about my bed, and spiest out all my ways.

“ For lo, there is not a word in my tongue, but Thou, O LORD, knowest it altogether.

“ Whither shall I go then from Thy SPIRIT? or whither shall I go then from Thy presence ? • If I climb up into Heaven, Thou art there : if I go

down to Hell, Thou art there also.

“ If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea ;

• Even there also shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.

If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me; then shall my night be turned to day.

“ Yea, the darkness is no darkness with Ther, but the night is as clear as the day : the darkness and light to THEE are both alike.

Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart: prove me, and examine my thoughts.

“Look well if there be any wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting !""





EZEKIEL xviii. 4.

Behold, all souls are mine ; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the

son is mine : the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

I REPEAT this very awful sentence again, because it is one which of all others I would have you deeply consider and lay to heart. It awakens thoughts too deep to dwell on, about the souls that are departed, whose trial is over, and who await in the world of spirits their final award on the right hand or on the left of the judgment-seat of Christ.

Every thought of them is full of mystery, and must awaken the deepest feelings of awe and tenderness. Of some we are told, in the touching lesson of All Saints' Day, "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die : and their departure was taken for misery: but they are in peace.” We remember them at God's altar ; we bless His holy Name for all His servants departed this life in His faith and fear, beseeching Him to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of His heavenly kingdom. They are, as we say in our prayer, delivered from their earthly prisons, from the burden of the flesh. We speak of them as we stand at the

graves of our departed brethren ; as the spirits of them that depart hence in the LORD, as the souls of the faithful; as those that sleep and rest in Christ; and pray for ourselves, who are yet each on his trial, that when we depart we may rest in Him, and at the general Resurrection we may be found acceptable in His sight, and receive that blessing which His well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear Him; saying, “Come ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world." All these, from the soul of righteous Abel, the first who died in God's favour, to those who are last gone from us with the seal of faith, and who now rest in the sleep of peace; all, however once mixed up with others in this strange and mysterious world, as pastors and flocks, as kings and subjects, as fathers and children, and brethren and companions and friends, all are in His keeping, who says in the text, “ All souls are Mine.” They are in an especial and unspeakable sense His, and none shall pluck them out of His Hand: all live unto Him, and “they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels,” in that world where He shall be all in all.

Again, no less is there a fearful sense in which He the righte. ous Judge, by Whom all must be judged without respect of persons, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, may be said to include in this awful sentence, “ All souls are Mine,” the souls of the wicked and impenitent. Over these, indeed, a dark veil is drawn. It is said of Judas, when his place among the Apostles was to be filled up, that he had gone“ to his own place.” More than this we know not, nor may we know, nor need we know. It is enough that as saints have an earnest of their final rest and consummation in bliss, both in body and soul, so sinners, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our LORD JESUS Christ, have an earnest of what it is to be banished eternally from His Presence.

However, all these souls are departed : we shall go to them, but they shall not return to us; and every moment, as the course of the world goes so rapidly on, every moment, I say, while I speak, some soul is being added to their countless number, is going hence to be no more seen. Every day and hour the earthly trial of every living soul is drawing to its close; and according as it shall have passed that trial, it shall “ be with Christ iu Paradise,” or shall “ go to its own place,” to await the last great day. We shall all, we know not how soon, go to them; they shall

« PreviousContinue »